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As part of BWH's BluePrint celebration, BWH Bulletin features this special section to explore the past, present and future of the institution. You can find information about BluePrint, including a tool kit, milestones and events, at BWHPikeNotes.org/BluePrint. Questions? Email BWHBluePrint@partners.org.
George Richards Minot
William Parry Murphy
BWH's 15 Francis St. lobby-the original Peter Bent Brigham Hospital-is home to the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine medal that the late BWH surgeon Joseph Murray, MD, received in 1990 for his pioneering work in organ transplantation.
But, did you know that this distinguished honor was not the first Nobel Prize bestowed upon a Brigham physician?
Peter Bent Brigham physicians George R. Minot, MD, and William P. Murphy, MD, were the first Brigham recipients of the Nobel Prize. They, along with George Whipple, MD, a former professor of pathology and dean at the University of Rochester, shared the 1934 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work in discovering the origin and cure of pernicious anemia-a condition in which the body cannot make enough healthy red blood cells because of a lack of vitamin B12.
In the early 1900s, pernicious anemia was a serious disease that most often had fatal consequences. Its origin and cure were unknown, but it was the research of Whipple and the clinical studies of Minot and Murphy that unlocked this medical mystery.
In 1926, Minot and Murphy began feeding patients, including those at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, suffering from anemia a "special diet" consisting of meat, vegetables and large quantities of liver, which turned out to restore red blood cells in a person suffering from the illness.
By the time the trio received the Nobel Prize, medical experts calculated that between 1926 and 1934, some 15,000 to 20,000 people in the U.S. alone were saved from death by this medical breakthrough.
The 1935 Peter Bent Brigham Annual Report acknowledged this honor, mentioning that "the Nobel Prize [being awarded] to these men, and particularly that the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital furnished them facilities for their investigation, [are] a source of great pride to us, their colleagues on the medical staff of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital."
Learn more here and watch a video of the 1934 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.